Most costly violations for larger employers

Date Posted: 03/02/2020

OSHA top ten violationsThe OSHA top ten violation list doesn’t change much year to year, but you might not realize that most citations are issued to small employers. For example, Hazard Communication gets cited nearly 4,000 times per year, but more than half get issued to employers with fewer than 20 employees.

The table below shows the top ten for companies with 250 employees in the 2019 fiscal year. We’ve sorted the list by total penalty amounts rather than number of citations (ranking by citations is shown on the right). The dollar amounts give an idea of which violations OSHA considers most serious.






Rank by Citations


1910.147 Lockout/Tagout




1910.212 Machine Guarding




1910.119 Process safety management




1910.178 Powered Industrial Trucks




General Duty Clause




1910.37 Maintaining exit routes




1910.28 Fall protection




1910.303 General (electrical standards)




1904.39 Reporting fatality, hospitalization




1910.219 Mechanical power-transmission apparatus




Note that lockout/tagout and machine guarding top the list in both total penalties and number of citations. These violations create the potential for serious injury, resulting in higher fines. Specific paragraphs cited are not available, but experience should help you determine where to look in your own programs.

Number three (by penalty amount) is process safety management, which isn’t surprising given the potential seriousness of an incident.

Powered industrial trucks comes in fourth. These heavy vehicles create substantial hazards for pedestrians (and operators). If OSHA responds to a forklift-related injury or observes an operator doing something unsafe, the agency doesn’t give the driver a ticket; instead, OSHA will cite the company.

The General Duty Clause covers “hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm” so higher penalties would be expected. Maintaining exit routes is also high on the list, since a blocked exit door or aisle is extremely dangerous — and those violations are easily spotted. Reporting a serious injuries also made the list, likely because these incidents were not reported within the required time frame.

Using the list above should help focus your safety efforts on the most common violations, and based on the penalty amounts, these are also the violations most likely to cause serious injuries.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

RegSenseIf any of the commonly-cited standards have been a challenge, you may need to review the regulations, guidance, and frequently asked questions on that topic. You can do this easily using the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE with the RegSense feature. We have topics sorted alphabetically, and each topic contains a variety of resources need for compliance.

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